No need to travel for great eats


Randy Riley - Contributing columnist



Like most people, I’ve eaten some lousy stuff over the years. That may be one of the reasons my blood sugar is so high.

A few years ago, during my annual physical, my doctor came into the exam room and said, “OK, I’m not going to talk to you about your high blood sugar anymore.”

I was relieved. I said, “That’s great. I was getting tired of hearing about it.”

He immediately followed with, “Now, I’m saying you’re a type-2 diabetic.”

Oh, great. Maybe I should have eaten better.

The truth is we all love to eat. Nowadays, I try to eat smaller portions. I try to avoid desserts. I’ve maintained the same weight for about 30 years.

Unfortunately, it’s about 30 pounds more than it should be.

I asked my doctor, “Why is it that all the food I should avoid tastes great and all the stuff I should eat tastes like cardboard or carpet?” That may be a slight exaggeration, but you get the point.

A few years ago, I wrote a column entitled, “Traveling on Your Stomach.” Debbie had found an article entitled, “19 places in Ohio where you must eat before you die.”

We were intrigued. We put those places on a list and decided to hit all 19. After about a year, we had made it to all but two. One was a sushi place in Toledo. The other was a fine-dining restaurant in Cincinnati that we had already experienced.

They were all fun. We ended up adding several other places to our list as we criss-crossed the state. We are making plans to return to a few of the places.

The best steak I ever ate come from a restaurant called the Scioto Ribber in Portsmouth. During our travels, we ate pizza in an old covered bridge in Ashtabula and we ate mile-high-stacked sandwiches at a deli near Cleveland.

We kept an open mind. Some stops were priceless … some were worthless.

About halfway through our dining travels we realized we didn’t have to drive all over Ohio to find really good food. There are several fine places within just a few miles of our home.

Rich Warner used to have a restaurant just off I-71 on SR 68. Several years ago, he moved further north up to US 35. He changed the name to Werner’s Smokehouse Bar-B-Que. Trust me. It is worth the short drive.

I have an old pair of leather shoes in our hallway closet. I truly think, if Rich had enough time, he could soak, smoke, fry and barbecue those old shoes into a tender, tasty meal.

He works magic. His Hog-Wings are amazing. (Yes, I said Hog-Wings.) He uses a special cut from the bottom shank of ham. Rich then smokes, fries and grills them until they’re perfect.

The last time we visited Rich, the daily specials listed “Turkey Ribs” as their daily special. I was intrigued. I thought they might mean turkey breast, but it clearly stated turkey ribs.

I had to ask. According to the server, they only use the clavicle of the bird and include some white meat from the front and dark meat from the turkey’s back. That cut of turkey is then smoke and barbecued. Wow. It was delicious.

There is also a small hamburger stand in Urbana named Crabill’s that we will definitely visit some afternoon this year for a few of their fabulous mini burgers.

Although Rod no longer owns the restaurant, a cold beer and a Rod Burger are still a little slice of heaven near Cowan Lake. The folks from the campgrounds and the people who show horses still love The Capricorn Inn. What’s not to love?

Our visitors from the World Equestrian Center and neighbors from all around the county routinely enjoy dining at the General Denver. I’m always grateful that our friends from Vera Cruz decided to start a restaurant here in Wilmington called Fiesta Vera Cruz. Their margaritas are the best.

The baked Ziti at the Mediterranean Restaurant is still a favorite of mine. The “Hot Mayor” sandwich followed by a vanilla latte at Jen’s Deli is fantastic.

Breakfast, lunch or dinner at Sam’s Meats are wonderful. We enjoy breakfast at Sam’s almost every Wednesday morning, with great food and great company.

I’ve had to eat Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) when deployed to Biloxi after Hurricane Katrina. When working in the Amazon jungle, we were served local beef that was delicious, but was so stringy that it could not be chewed well enough to swallow. So, we could chew and chew and chew and chew, until the flavor was gone, then we would spit the worn-out beef into the river.

Hopefully, the piranha could finish the chewing.

Debbie and I have traveled the country eating, but I think I would much rather visit the Scioto Ribber, Warner’s or one of our many local restaurants that offer delicious food. There’s even a gas station in Lynchburg call Terry’s Grocery and Pizza that serves the largest, tastiest ice cream desserts I have ever seen.

I’m sure we’ll find more wonderful, local places to eat, but until then, when Rich Warner calls and tells me my old shoes are ready, I’m heading north.

Bon Appetit.

Randy Riley is former Mayor of Wilmington, Ohio and former Clinton County Commissioner.

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Randy Riley

Contributing columnist